On Your Side: Don't expect city to pay if sewer line floods your house

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 11/25/2013 6:47 pm

Scott Young says he couldn't believe what was happening when raw sewage began flooding the basement of his home off of Plumas Street in southwest Reno last summer.

"Even the city supervisor said it was a very large sewage back-up," Young said.

But the Young's nightmare was only beginning.  After three different back-ups in a week's time they filed a claim with the city of Reno asking for reimbursement of more than $50,000 for clean-up and repair costs.   The city refused to pay.

"It's frustrating when you know in your gut that you've been wronged," said Kristi Young.

The city denied the claim because it says whoever connected the Young's basement to the sewer line did not obtain the proper permits, and the city says the work may have not been done according to code.  That work was done before the Young's bought their house and moved in but it's their headache now.

The city of Reno concedes it was a city sewer line that clogged.  But they say that doesn't mean their liable in this case.

"The fact that his system backed up when others did not have a problem indicates the problem is in his domestic line," said deputy city attorney Jack Campbell.   "We're not liable to pay for their damages and we didn't," he added.

But News 4 has learned the city used to pay out nearly all sewer claims that were filed.

From 2009 to 2010 the city paid out more than $93,000 in sewer claims. After that the city's legal department took over those claims and since then has paid out only 765 dollars for the period between 2011 and 2013.

The city says it couldn't afford to continue paying out all those claims.

"We wouldn't be able to be here if we were essentially insuring peoples' toilets.  We wouldn't have money to do anything else," said Campbell.

Experts say it's a good idea to talk to your insurance agent to make sure you're covered against city sewer line back-ups.   Unfortunately the Youngs did not have that particular coverage.  But they hope their story will help others avoid what can be a very costly and upsetting experience.

"This was devastating to us both emotionally and  financially," said Scott Young.  "We don't want to see this happen to anyone else."

The Young's have not given up their fight.   They have taken the city to court in hopes of getting reimbursed for some of the costs of cleaning up and repairing their home.
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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

jemima42 - 11/26/2013 7:58 PM
0 Votes
Hey Kramer,you must be a total friggin idiot. Not worth more of my time than that.

Kramer - 11/26/2013 6:19 PM
0 Votes
the mentality around here is that "permits" are for Suckers. And City inspectors have been known to 'wink' or whisper "why bother next time"? Yet thecity's Permit 'clearinghouse' tends to be a nerve-wracking experience where employees toy with ordinary citizens, appease shady landlords, and defer to "developers".
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